ANA: Dreamliner Battery Solution “Quite Advanced,” Japanese Regulators Remain Cautious
Japanese regulators and the number one operator of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner said separately that they are cautious but optimistic about the resumption of flights.
On Friday, Akihiro Ohta, the country’s transport minister, said that Boeing’s proposed solution to the Dreamliner’s battery problems is a significant step forward but he cautioned that it is still only a “starting point” in terms of getting the grounded planes back in the air. At a news conference, Ohta told reporters that it will “take some time” to determine whether the solution will be satisfactory.
Also on Friday, ANA president and CEO Shinichiro Ito made his first public comments about the Dreamliner at a news conference announcing changes in top management at the airline. The solution Boeing is proposing appears to be “quite advanced” he said, adding that the final decision on whether it would be sufficient to resume flying the 787 is in the hands of Japanese and U.S. regulators.
“My impression was that these plans were quite advanced,” he told reporters at the news conference, adding “[but] I am not a technical expert myself.” He also said he hoped that a decision to rescind the grounding order would be made soon and that ANA has no plans to move away from its commitment to the Dreamliner.
The statements came after Ray Conner, head of the aircraft maker’s commercial airplanes unit, briefed Japanese regulators and customers including ANA and Japan Airlines, the two largest operators of the 787.
The Dreamliner was grounded by aviation authorities and airlines around the world on January 16 after a second battery-related problem caused a fire onboard a Dreamliner aircraft while on a domestic flight in Japan.
The high-tech Boeing 787 Dreamliner has more electrical systems than earlier aircraft. These systems perform a variety of tasks including de-icing the wings, pressurizing the cabin, and operating hydraulic pumps. In addition, the 787 uses electric brakes while other aircraft have hydraulic ones. The Dreamliner has six generators that produce a total of 1.45 megawatts, enough to power 400 homes.
The aircraft has two main lithium-ion batteries, each roughly twice the size of a standard car battery. One, located in the front of the aircraft, supplies power for the plane’s startup functions and ground operations and also serves as backup power for the electric brakes. The second is in the back of the plane and is used to start the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU), which is a small engine that powers the plane while it is on the ground. Malfunctions have been reported with both batteries.
The first Dreamliner took flight in late 2011 and was operated by launch customer ANA. Boeing has delivered over 50 Dreamliners since the launch.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)